Friday, March 13, 2009

A guest blog from Starman

Hi folks, I wanted to post this Lenten reflection from Starman, well, just because I really like it! It talks about things I have been thinking about a lot, especially after reading a recent post written by my friend WisePastor which you can find at his blog Electric Circuit Rider. Let me know what you think:

On occasion I am asked "What does a scientist see in religion?" For
years my response to this has been to wonder aloud why anyone should
care what a scientist thinks on this subject? Why should it matter
more than, say, a lawyer or a doctor or a factory worker or a letter
carrier? Why should my opinion on this subject matter to anyone in
particular? You should go ask an expert.

Lately, however, in the popular culture we see articles and books by
people who seem "speak for science" on these issues. So it is worth
remarking simply that there is no consensus among scientist on any of
these issues despite what you may be reading.

Science is an amazing and wonderful thing, and if you ask me about it
sometime, I will happily give you an earful. As a species and as a
culture, we literally owe every major aspect of our modern lives to
the impact of science and associated technology, and this has been a
huge benefit to humanity. (Yes, the modern world has its multifold
dangers and problems, but we really do not want to go back to living
in a world where life expectancy is less than 40 years and most
children die of hunger or disease before reaching adolescence.)

Science as we now know it depends on two things (1) the historical
discovery and codification of the "scientific method" a few hundred
years ago, and (2) the happy fact that our universe seems to be
governed by a relatively small number of mathematical rules -- rules
that can be inferred and verified by careful observation and

Science is a powerful tool for finding detailed answers to all kinds
of important well-structured problems. But science does not help that
much to help us solve a wide range of ill-structured problems. We can
use science to predict to six decimal places where a given electron is
likely to appear. But we cannot use science to help us much in
deciding what career to choose, how to spend our time, who to marry,
who to vote for, and what the right and just thing to do is in any
given situation. For all kinds of important and challenging problems
that we face every day, science comes up short.

By the way I am not comfortable with some idea of "God of the gaps",
and I find very uncompelling this idea that there are some things that
can be explained by science while other things cannot. In fact, it
seems to me that science is extremely comprehensive when it comes to
"explaining" pretty much every aspect of our existence. Science tells
us that all of our thoughts and feelings result from a series of
complicated interactions between the neuron cells in our brains.
Science further tells us that the human animal, like all other
animals, has evolved from earlier species, and that all life is
governed by the genetic information encoded by the DNA in our cells
which follows rigorously the rules of chemistry that in turn result
from the fundamental properties of sub atomic matter and energy. This
"story of science" is supported by a vast structure of interlocking
observational evidence. This story that tells us that who we as human
creatures, and what we are made of are governed from top to bottom by
the fundamental mathematical laws. I feel strongly that this "story
of science" is important for every person to know about, even those
people who have no direct connection to science. For example, if
tomorrow morning the physicists at CERN make a discovert that allows
for a new theory to accounts for every particle ever observed -- a new
Theory of Everything -- then such a discovery will almost certainly
have huge practical impact, leading to great new technical innovations
and new discoveries that can be used to make the world a better place.

But we need more than an explanation. Even a Theory of Everything
will not help anyone understand how to live a compassionate and
fulfilling life. If I am wracked by guilt, unable to forgive the
person who hurt me, or paralyzed by an ethical dilemma, then any
"explanation" -- that all of these experiences are a by-product of
certain patterns of firing synapses in my brain -- is not actually
going to help me cope with what I am experiencing. It's not that
science fails to explain, it's just that explanations by themselves do
not actually solve our problems.

During the season of Lent, we are asked to turn inward and to reflect
on our faith. We are all on a journey of life, and the real questions
about God are not primarily concerned with whether or not there is any
scientific evidence to support or deny God's existence (there isn't).
And despite what you may have heard from Intelligent Design advocates,
it's not about finding unsolved scientific mysteries or documenting
miracles or anything else that seems to demonstrate how faith in God
trumps the laws of science. In my view none of these things gets at
the heart of the matter which is this: What is your relationship with
God and what does this mean in terms of how you will live your life?
This is what we are asked to reflect on during Lent, and indeed for
all our lives.

What is your relationship with God and what does this mean in terms of
how you will live your life? How will you answer this ill-structured,
knotty and sometimes messy and difficult question? As Christians we
look to Jesus, what he said and what he taught us to help us answer
this question. The life of Jesus, the value of the church community,
and the message we share with the world by our love.

To me it is an amazing and wonderful paradox that even though we all
journey through life alone, we also journey together. What is your
relationship with God and what does this mean in terms of how you will
live your life? Each of us must answer this for ourselves. Each of
us will have a unique answer. And yet, we come together to share in
our journeys. We find common ground even through our differences, and
this common ground is what it is all about. When we come to worship
and prayer, when we turn to God, and we turn to each other, we do so
not because we are seeking explanations, scientific or otherwise, for
it all. (Indeed, I am very suspicious of anyone using a religious
argument to "explain" something). Instead, we come to God for meaning.
We come to God to understand who we are and why we are here. We come
to God to help us cope with the pain and injustice of our world, to
cope with broken relationship and broken dreams, to help us face our
own too-obvious flaws. We come to God with gratitude, the joy of
life, the support of family and loved ones. We come to God to learn
what we must do to work together to make the world a better place, how
we must share with others, and what it means to love your neighbor.

Feed my sheep, said Jesus.

My two cents.

Can I just say, I love this man?

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